A very tricky open-ended question, you will agree, whose answer will either reinforce your chances of getting the job or botch them like any other question. It could come in the form of “what would your previous boss say about you? How would your previous boss describe you?”
Remember the interviewer wants to hire people who will help in the running of their business. He wants to know your skills, traits and weaknesses are, and if you’re a good fit for the position and company. Thus this question will help to reinforce his decision.
The interviewer wants to see your ability to view yourself from an external perspective; get potential insights from others who know you very well as a third-party objective opinion. In asking the question, the interviewer will likely also probe the source of the answer. So be ready to answer the follow-up question of “Why do you think they would say that?”
This question thus gives you the opportunity to describe yourself as somebody who is helpful, so helpful that you are quite literally critical to the running of the business.
Don’t you go saying he would describe you as a nice person, for example. That’s cheesy and dry. Really there’s nothing else he saw in you apart from you being nice. Oh, give us a break. If we needed nice people for this job, we would have gone to that “nice” smiling woman down the street selling bolle and pear. How does being nice help with running the business?
Neither should you say that; you didn’t have a good relationship with your boss. That would raise red flags. If you didn’t flow well with him/her, paint this in a positive note while being honest. If you took slightly longer completing tasks or asked an awful lot of questions, say that your boss would describe you as someone who’s very meticulous, always inquisitive and curious. Then explain how in a sentence or two.
If you had a good/great relationship and s/he liked/loved your work, say it by all means. Just do not overdo it, so you don’t come off as arrogant and conceited.
Your answer should address:
- What it was about you that your boss loved
- How these will benefit the company
- The kind of skills and traits required in a perfect candidate for that particular role.
Example: I think my boss would describe me as a creative and dedicated person who is good at leading teams and inspiring them to get work done effectively. He might say that I can be relied upon to constantly achieve the results he needs in the team. Also, he would probably say that I pro-actively reach out to relieve him from some of his service and admin responsibilities to allow him to focus more on business development when he needs to.”
As usual, keep your answer short and to the point. Be honest, making sure you answer in a positive tone linking it to what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate for this position.
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